Travel to Albania – Episode 575

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Travel to Albania - What to do and see in this little known but beautiful country (Podcast)

Hear about travel to Albania as the Amateur Traveler talks to Dina Rabiner about her visit to the country where she originally went as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Dina says, “My first introduction to Albania was when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to be in the country and that was in 1992, right when Albania was emerging from a period of not communism but Stalinism.” Dina was just back this year, with her family.

“Albania is a beautiful country. It’s a very small country and a lot of people equate it to the size of Maryland, but it’s just chalk full of natural beauty, of history (both its more recent communist history but also the history from Turkish occupation, from the Byzantine era). There are artifacts from all of those times.”

“You can travel the whole country within a week or a week and a half as we did and see a real range of natural beauty, of history. And the people are just incredibly welcoming as well.” Dina backs up her claims about a welcoming people with a family who just about gave them the clothes off their own back when they needed help.

Dina starts us in the capital of Tirana where she directs us to the main mosque, the market, and the House of Leaves museum which tells the darker history of the communist era.

She takes us to Krujë and then up to Valbona in the Accursed Mountains for a day hike. She continues through Durrës and Gjirokastër to the historic town of Apollonia, its ruins and its Iso-polyphonic folk singing.

We also talk about the UNESCO sites at Butrint and Berat as well as where to find a nice beach on the Adriatic or Ionian coast. This is after all a country that shares a coastline with Croatia and Montenegro.

Although Albania may not be on your list of places to go, but perhaps it should be.

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Show Notes

Albania
Albania
Enver Hoxha
Tirana
House of Leaves (Shtepia e Gjetheve)
Bunk Art
National Historical Museum (Albania)
Pazari i Ri
Et’hem Bey Mosque
Mother Teresa
Krujë
Skanderbeg
Prokletije (Accursed Mountains)
Valbona – Catherine Bohne is an American who went on vacation to Albania 9 years ago and never came back. She also prints small hiking maps.
Durrës
Gjirokastër
Ismail Kadare
Apollonia (Illyria)
Museum of Apollonia
Albanian iso-polyphony
Albanian Folk Iso-polyphony video
Mrizi i Zanave – Agritourism
Butrint
Berat
Albarent Rental cars
Albania Trip Planning

Community

Jack wrote:

Hi Chris — Really enjoyed that episode, having been to the Yukon three times. But your host neglected to mention the infamous ritual of the Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City! More than 100,000 folks of all ages and from all over the world have done the drink with an actual mummified human toe in it, since 1973. Google it! ( I saw it but declined.) Anyway, thanks for all your podcasts, and keep them coming…I have listened to every one!

Best regards, Jack

Travel to the Lofoten Islands of Norway – Episode 572

Randy wrote:

I always enjoy the podcast but I especially enjoyed this episode of a car trip exploring the Lofoten Islands of northern Norway, I am definitely thinking of BMW for my next car, that was the car brand I used and it is simply amazing. I listened while viewing the accompanying photos in the advanced iTunes version and followed along on the journey with an online interactive map of the area. I certainly would love to do this trip someday. My only time in Norway was a few days in Oslo. The buildings of this region remind me of those I’ve seen in Greenland and Iceland. Great episode! Thanks to guest David Nikel for sharing and Chris our beloved and hard-working host.

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November 2017 – India Amateur Traveler Trip

Travel to Albania - What to do and see in this little known but beautiful country (Podcast)

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

5 Responses to “Travel to Albania – Episode 575”

Ricardo from Zbulo! Discover Albania

Says:

I appreciate the overview and input but find it a bit superficial. For the better or worse the destination is experiencing a boom of tourism that is changing it very quickly. I’m under the impression that if the opinions stated remain unchallenged, this episode will only act as catalyst for negative side effects. I hope to create another perspective on traveling in Albania from my background. I have been living here for five years and am working in sustainable tourism development – Dan and Audrey, who are talking about the Peaks of the Balkans Trek in another episode of the Amateur Traveler, were our guests.

By now I see the rise in visitor numbers as a growing problem, especially as long as those don’t disperse across the country and flock to the same well-known locations causing harm to them. Development pressure is very high, water and power consumption or grey water and trash production are all major concerns. Hospitality is lost when a family-run business who used to host a few travelers every now and then now, is overwhelmed by >1800 guests within the short four months season. The income gap is growing, it creates social disparities and unrest within the communities and only widens the gap between those places that are frequented and others that are off the map.

If you like to travel responsibly, consider adapting your itinerary. Do a little research, try to uncover the soul of Albania – you won’t find at the polished UNESCO sites or beach resorts. Personally, I try to avoid some of spots that I loved visiting few years ago, of those places mentioned Theth and Valbona or the restaurant Mrizi i Zanave that is overrun and heavily commercialized (for Albanian standards). Last week I guided a hiking group through the hidden villages and valleys of Southern Albania. When we traveled passed Saranda we found two cruise ships anchored there, the city overrun and a 30min waiting line in front of Butrint – the contrast could not have been bigger.

Don’t become just another tourist who’s checking off must-see lists while taking pictures of glorified buildings. Explore little side alleys of cities, take your time to talk to locals and head into the countryside for a different experience while searching for the true soul of Albania. Staying with locals, interacting with them and observing their lifestyle is the best way to look beyond the curtain and get to know this country, its people, history and traditions. It’s not the sights and beaches that will remain in our memory, but the personal connections and encounters that will make us remember.

(BTW I never ever managed to spend more than 30$ per person for a multi-course, high quality meal including drinks.)

Caroline from Detroit

Says:

Hi Chris! I am a huge fan of your podcast and was so excited when I saw your latest episode was about Albania! Although I am not of Albanian descent, many of my friends and coworkers are. I have been planning to visit for about two years now but for whatever reason, it keeps getting pushed back. Thanks to this episode I am keeping it first in line for my next vacation. I have listened to your previous podcast about Albania and loved hearing about what has changed. Thank you for everything you do and keep up the great work!!

Kathy

Says:

I am so sorry to read Ricardo’s comment. I visited Albania in 2011, at the end of the summer season, and it was very quiet. I came overland (car and driver) from Ohrid in Macedonia to Korca, car and driver to Gjirokastra and then mini buses and regular buses to Saranda, Tirana (day trip to Kruja) and then Shkodra on the way to Montenegro. While a car would be useful in the north (the ferries on Lake Korman didn’t work for me with buses), you can see a lot without one. I took the car from Korca because I wanted to be able to stop and take photos, but there was a bus. I used Lonely Planet’s Western Balkans guide book which no longer exists. Albania is in their big Eastern Europe book but I doubt it gets much coverage. Bradt has one just for Albania published Jan 2015 with a new edition due May 2018.

Chris Christensen

Says:

Kathy my guest wrote:

I am so sorry to read Ricardo’s comment. I visited Albania in 2011, at the end of the summer season, and it was very quiet. I came overland (car and driver) from Ohrid in Macedonia to Korca, car and driver to Gjirokastra and then mini buses and regular buses to Saranda, Tirana (day trip to Kruja) and then Shkodra on the way to Montenegro. While a car would be useful in the north (the ferries on Lake Korman didn’t work for me with buses), you can see a lot without one. I took the car from Korca because I wanted to be able to stop and take photos, but there was a bus. I used Lonely Planet’s Western Balkans guide book which no longer exists. Albania is in their big Eastern Europe book but I doubt it gets much coverage. Bradt has one just for Albania published Jan 2015 with a new edition due May 2018.

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